A PROFILE IN GREED - Air Evac Lifeteam Charges College Student $17,000 For a Ride in a Helicopter

This isn't just David vs. Goliath, this is Erin vs. Air Evac Lifeteam, an American college student returning home from a mission of mercy vs. a mercenary helicopter service that charges insanely outrageous fees for the privilege of ferrying helpless accident victims to a hospital, and later, to a lifeteam of crushing debt.

Now, I support capitalism, but what Air Evac Lifeteam does to unfortunate people unable to compete in a fair marketplace for air ambulance services is unconscionable unless one is a confirmed corporate sociopath, the Enron likes of which intentionally cut the electricity in California to drive up prices.

Now comes the victim, Erin Neff (daughter to the editor of Web del Sol)--returning home from a long trip, organized by her school to help Katrina casualties. Her van spun out of control and Erin was thrown from the vehicle and onto the highway. Miraculously, she did not break anything, but authorities on the scene thought it best to evac her to the nearest hospital for tests. And guess who arrives? AIR EVAC LIFETEAM with a transport price tag that would make even millionaires pause--I mean, who in their right mind would pay $17,000+ for a 30 minute helicopter ride? No one, of course.

Erin didn't mind getting picked up and flown to the hospital. It was fun, in a way. Little did she know that this angel-of-mercy company was going to send her a bill that would potentially burden her with bills at high interest rates for years to come (on top of her student loans!). A copy of that bill can be found here. Note they charged her a whopping ten grand just to step on the copter! The rest of it is a per mile fee that adds up to close to seven more thousand.

Erin Neff cannot pay this bill. She is working with her college to pay some of it. Insurance is covering zip. But even as around-the-block as I am, this kind of story floors me!
Okay, so what is really responsible for the dizzying rise of health care costs in America? One word ... GREED.

Just pure f**king GREED!
Thank you, Air Evac Lifeteam.


  1. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Just FYI...Air ambulance companies have to charge what they do to stay in business. Most companies only collect on 40%-60% of all emergency calls. They carry everybody regardless of ability to pay. So, you were provided a service that potentially saved your life (at the time you didn't know the extent of your injuries). How much is your life worth?? Why isn't the automobile insurance paying? Why isn't your medical insurance paying? These are the questions you need to ask.

    1. Anonymous11:08 AM

      i'm sorry--did you not read the amount they are charging?? this is not insurance so that nullifies that argument--c'mon man--what are you? An Air Evac exec??

  2. Of course, the usual phony arguments to excuse unbridled greed.

    We need to charge this amount to stay in business ($17,000 per 30 minutes), followed by the WHAT IS YOUR LIFE WORTH logic used by all health care greed mongers.

    I adequately address the latter here:

    Using "life worth" arguments, the greed mongers believe they can justify pauperizing anyone, ruining their lives, forcing them from their homes, blowing their credit, hampering their ability to support themselves, and all else for the right to potentially save life. No amount is too large, no future financial burdens too onerous.

    Doesn't it remind you of Potter from It's a Wonderful Life? He forced people to live in squalor, and said, "If it weren't for me, they would have no place to live."

    Air Evac will chopper you sure, then get attorneys and collection agents to drive you to suicide if you don't pay them their pound of flesh.

    They charge what they think they can get away with, that's all.

  3. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Hi Elizabeth, I completely agree. My sister was involved in a car accident where she was put on an air evac helicopter and sent to the nearest hospital less than 30 minutes away for $17K. My sister then passed away at the hospital. The insurance company paid almost half of that but air evac is unhappy with that sum and is now constantly calling our family members even though my sister was a single adult. That would be similar to american express calling me to pay her outstanding credit card bills which would be ridiculous. Believe it or not, there are atleast 6 other HC providers involved and all of them have written off the unpaid portion because she did not have a husband nor was she underage (where they would pursue the parents) but good old air evac seems to have no problems calling me every few weeks pretending to "check in". I think it's quite disgusting that they are trying to act like a concerned party in the hopes that they can recoup the portion that insurance did not cover from devastated family members that are not even legally financially liable for the victim. What is of concern is that they make it seem as if the unpaid bill will reflect negatively on her/my credit. Like it matters for hers. I think it's even more alarming that they can charge whatever price they want using the line that it is to save your life. Well, what if the victim died? What if the victim would have lived had they done a better job of getting her to the airport? Can I get a discount for that? All in all, I think it's a ridiculous exercise in futility since they will not stop calling but I wanted to tell our story in the hopes that one day this heartless bully can be stopped.

  4. Anonymous10:39 PM

    I can understand being upset about a big bill - especially when you're not getting help with taking care of it from your insurance Companies...but Air Evac would not be in business if there was not a need, and if their costs of operating were not being covered.

    As a Firefighter who is often involved in rescue calls in our County - we only call for Air Evac if there is the very real possibility that a patient will die or lose a limb if not quickly transferred to a trauma center.

    Also worth mentioning...many rural Counties here in Tennessee and in other states do not have adequate resources available for trauma patients at our hospitals...therefor trauma patients need to be taken directly to a capable facility as QUICKLY as possible...if a trauma patient is not able to get to a trauma center within one hour of an accident...their survival rate drops significantly.

    Also - Air Evac membership's are available for as little as $50/year which covers you for any unpaid costs - any balance left over after Insurance pays.

    So...$50/year membership would have taken care of the $17,000...

  5. Anonymous8:21 PM

    ANY other sevice charges are comparable. Hospital Wing in Memphis, Vanderbuilt in Nashville, Air Care, companies in Dallas, all over you idiot.

  6. Anonymous9:28 AM

    The best part is that their crews work 48-72 hr weeks with no overtime pay and most of the paramedics are eligible for Medicaid with the piss poor wages they recieve! I know I am one of them.

  7. You folks must realize that these helicopter flights pay for the entire companies operation. The secrataries, paper clips, copy machines. It isn't just the direct cost of operating the helicopter. The helicopters are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It cost money, big money. Don't think so, go start your own helicopter company and find out.

    1. Anonymous11:13 AM

      Ow about something reasonable then? How about $1500.00 an hr.? how much profit do they eeek out of every flight? My God--talk about opportunisitic? Rape patients because they are in need??

  8. Anonymous12:13 AM

    Helicopters are very expensive. To own, operate, even just the fuel involved. A real air ambulance like Vandy has the Helicopter itself is 6-8 million dollars then over $1000 an hour to operate plus fuel. And you have to pay them to fly to the accident,to the hospital, then back home. Heance the base rate. These are private companys that are for making a profit. Its called the American Dream. Now Air Evac uses old worn out Helicopters with undertrained and underpaid crews so they can make more money. The bill was fair for the service recieved. Healthcare is expensive. If seriously injured this would be one day or less in an ICU. Helicopters for getting a pt to the right place fast can prevent a bill from a smaller hospital that transfers pt out much bigger than this. And being at the right hospital fast could decrease the stay, decrease rehab time and save way more than the 17,000. If your not hurt bad and were lucky then the bill sucks. Suck it up and deal with it!

    1. Anonymous1:29 PM

      FYI, we are highly trained and educated, get your facts straight.

    2. Anonymous2:25 PM

      You don't know what you're talking about. A Bell 407 ( which in new and not what Air Evac uses) costs that much but only costs $1200 per hour (current factory figures) for fuel and maintenance reserves. I was flown in September from La Grange to Austin (48 nautical miles). The chopper was already at La Grange and would have gone back to Austin empty. I obviously had no say in the matter. I was not on life support and only needed monitoring.

      Total bill - $38,000. Luckily, for the air evac companies in Texas - NONE of them have been made to sign on to agreements with ANY insurance company. Therefore, they are not tied to real life "usual and customary" charges as paid by insurance. The companies in the other 37 states which are bound by such agreements seem to stay in business !!!!!

      I'm a corporate pilot with a Lear Jet type rating. I have actually flown air ambulance flights in Lear Jets. They could have flown me from La Grange to Las Angeles and back for $32,000 - on full ventilator and with the same two crew plus two pilots. A fact I just verified with a friend of mine in the charter business at Hobby Airport.

      Do be too quick to call people idiots ! You're the one who may best fit that title.

    3. Anonymous9:08 AM

      One of the reasons healthcare is "expensive" is because of profiteering. The costs -- and the bills patients receive -- do not have to be as high as they are.

  9. Anonymous5:13 AM

    You're speaking out of pure ignorance. Why don't you investigate the costs of operating a helicopter EMS service- equipment, fuel, insurance, pilots, paramedics, nurses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week... I don't much care for AEL in particular for a variety of other reasons, but the amount charged is the industry standard (many services STILL lose money charging that amount).

  10. I would love to owe $17,000 to an Air Evac dad was involved in an accident went to Americus ga hospital, they thought he was ok since he was talking to him. He hit a road paver, lifted the care off the ground, and deformed the steering wheel with him wearing a seat belt. He had a slow heart rate and was talking to them with slight breathing problems. Thinking of mechanism of injury, much like your van wreck, he should have been flown to the trauma hospital. He went to CT at Americus, was bleeding from his sub-clavian artery, and bleed out while the helicopter was on its way (3 hours later). If he was at the trauma hospital, he would have gone straight to surgery and would have been here to see his 10 month old grandson (only grandson of all granddaughters). Oh and the Funeral Cost over 10,000 (I guess we saved money there).

  11. First, you do realize that Air Evac isnt the only Air Ambulance company out there correct? Go check the costs of those companies flight rates. Air Evac is not charging any more than the other companies.
    Secondly, if you want good, qualified people not only FLYING that helicopter, but GREAT Nurses and Paramedics on there caring for you, keeping you alive while you are en route to the trauma hospital, its gonna cost you. Or would you rather your life be in the care of the Lowest Bidder?
    Seriously, medical care is expensive, but so is the cost of flying. I guess it comes down to what value you put on your loved ones lives. Personally, Id be more than happy to cover that $17,000 bill if it meant my loved one got to LIVE.
    Maybe Obamacare will cover Air Ambulance charges now? Doesnt matter to me, Im smart enough to have a yearly membership to Air Evac. So If Im ever in an accident, Im covered.

    PS. My husband is a pilot for Air Evac and I can tell you he doesnt bring home loads of money. In fact, he took a pay cut when he retired from the Army flying Medevac to go work for Air Evac. He is gone 7 days a week working, sleeping, eating, breathing just waiting for someone to need him. I cant tell you how many times we've been approached my wives and husbands and mothers and fathers of people he's flown and whose lives he's helped save, who were so appreciative to HAVE to pay that amount....Because it meant someone they loved was STILL ALIVE.

    1. Anonymous9:19 PM

      Nice try "Missy". I am a retired Air Ambulance pilot. And I can tell you that many people, if not most, do NOT need to be flown at all. And while you mention your poor husband "gone seven days working", why don't you tell the people that he then gets seven days off! Yep, a one week vacation every other week. I worked a 7/7 shift for years. It's great, but it doesn't justify destroying families financially to do it. And tell the people that he's making anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 depending on seniority. Yep, there goes your pity from the working folks that he screws every week by flying the ones that don't need to be flown.

  12. To Missy, and the Air Evac defenders who most likely work for Air Evac. Services cost a bundle, just like they do in ERs where patients get charged three thousand for a few stitches, and they use the same justifications: expensive support, materials, and btw, what is your life worth? Well, just keep raising the cost of material and profit to ever higher levels then continue to ask, What is your life worth? I suppose paying $100,000 per flight to Air Evac is worth it also, according to your logic, since that is better than being dead, right? Of course. Saddling people with enormous debts they can't pay is wrong, period. Let Air Evac get gov subsidies of some kind and eat the cost. Bankrupting people is a crappy way to do business, Mr. Potter.

  13. Anonymous6:30 PM

    First off you are an idiot! If you want to play the blame game that helicopter was not just sitting there waiting of an accident to happen, someone called them, someone who thought they needed to be seen at a bigger hospital then was right there. I don’t hear you complaining about them. But since you get to post who you think should be here I’m sure this will never make it on. So do some research before you open your stupid report mouth and learn something, before you make asinine accusations you cannot support.

    1. This kind of hateful diatribe only identifies you as one of the human abusers who financially destroy people's lives under the guise of providing assistance.

  14. Anonymous5:29 AM

    My cost for 44 mile trip $34250.00
    yep thirty four thousand dollars.
    I requested to make the short trip by ground ambulance.. was overridden by doctor. So now what do I do ? at age 63 I may not be able to recover financially from this expense.
    Oh yes 9 days in a critical care unit and AAA major surgery..the full price paid 58,000. how can the ride to get there cost more than twice as much?
    dan friskel, oklahoma

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  16. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Air Evac is a scam! $26,000 would pay both of my kid's college off with money to spare. If Air Evac is paid over $7,000 (which is the maximum allowed by most insurances), patients should not be stuck paying the remaining $19,000! I believe Air Evac should go after the insurance companies to pay more...not stick it to their victims!
    From: An anonymous that does not work for Air Evac

  17. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Okay my son who is 18 was in an accident where he was tboned in the drivers side door he bumped his head the medics sent him via life flight to Vanderbilt in Nashville he was alert talking and answering questions and told them several time not to fly him just take him the local er and I was as well the EMTs refused and flew him anyway we now have a $33,528.79 bill for literally a 10 min flight please tell me how this makes sense

  18. Anonymous2:06 PM

    I have just recently become aware of these high-cost retail Air Ambulances that charge such ridiculous rates. Until now, I was only aware of our local (Austin) air ambulatory service, STARFlight, that charges about 10% of the cost everyone is quoting above. Their primary service area is Austin area and 19 counties surrounding it, but they also will fly further out of town for critical patients. They are owned by Travis County and highly-trained, their helicopter and clinical staff complete drills and everything to keep their skills sharp. But they are not for profit and do not charge the immense amount of mark-up the other companies do. Some people above mention that helicopters are expensive and staff are expensive etc. etc. and those exorbitant fees are necessary to keep those companies afloat. That is simply not true. STARFlight is able to maintiain their low rates and support Austin and the surrounding communities without going backrupt. The companies charging 10x are doing it because they can, out of greed, and if they do not have any other competition in the area, they are able to get away with it. I suggest everyone check to see if they have any county-owned services. Your due diligence could save you tens of thousands if ever needed.

  19. Anonymous8:59 PM

    I am a retired pilot with PHI Air Medical. I can tell you without a doubt that many people that we flew did NOT need to be flown. But when the flight nurse would tell them they should they would usually agree. the nurse then would have them sign a for called "Against Medical Advice" if they still refused to be flown. Just to add guilt to the issue for the patient. Why did we fly everyone we could?? MONEY! And yes, many families were devastated by the charges. And the company would usually take their homes, attach their wages, or whatever they could to collect the insane charges.
    This is an industry that should be put out of business. The government could do this easily, and spread the cost over the entire state to cover expenses. In California, if the highway patrol helicopter picks you up and takes you to the's FREE. And they all carry a highly trained medic.

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  21. I just had an 80 mile flight with Air Evac. My insurance was billed for almost 45k and was paid about 35K. I am now responsible for the remaining almost 10K. Charge was for round-trip. Retired and on a fixed income I cannot start to pay this amount. Asking $400 per month for 2 years.

  22. Anonymous9:05 AM

    Got a $35K bill for a relatively straightforward helicopter evacuation. Blue Cross Blue Shield paid for about $22K. What a rip-off, and we get the short end of the stick. The helicopter evac company (Eagle Med, in this case) charges whatever they want. Blue Cross Blue Shield pays whatever they want (so much for being "insurance"), even though I am well over my deductible. I'm sure their lobbyists set this racket up.

  23. My son was flown. He is also a college student. He now has 25k turned over to a collection agency because insurance only paid 7k. His credit ruined forever. The local air evac chopper can be seen every Friday parked by the local football field so the pilot can watch the game Who pays then fuel to get to the ball field? We need a class action suit

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  25. Anonymous11:08 AM

    I for one am glad to have Air-Evac in my rual community. It would take over an hour by ground to get to a trama center. I also know there are memberships offered to keep one from getting those extremely high bills. I'm a member and it costs less than a fancy cup of coffee a month to have this membership. It's hard to complain if there is options available us to not have a bill at all. I look at the membership as assurance not insurance. We all know insurance and Vegas was not born for winners!!! Member for life!

  26. Anonymous7:19 AM

    We are being RIPPED OFF by air evac and I agree that we need acivil lawsuit against this greedy company that exploits the injured.